Stop Making Excuses…and Cheating Yourself Out of Success

If you want to ensure that you never reach your goals, do exactly what I’ve been doing: let your life be taken over by excuses.

On July 4, I ran the local Firecracker 4-Miler race in my hometown for the second year. Despite the fact that last year’s event was my very first race ever, and that it was the exact same course and we were experiencing very similar weather (hot and humid!), I showed absolutely no improvement from last year. In fact, I came in at almost exactly the same time, to the second. I struggled from start to finish, and couldn’t keep myself from stopping to catch my breath or surreptitiously take a break to “tie my sneakers” during the race.

As I was beating myself up afterwards, and trying to come up with excuses for not achieving what I thought would be an easy goal for me — beating last year’s time — I couldn’t help the niggling feeling that I was simply trying to not take responsibility for not working hard enough. All this time, I’ve been going out on 2 or 3 mile runs here and there. I wasn’t being consistent — sometimes weeks would pass without running at all — and I wasn’t exactly adhering to any of the advice I was skimming in my monthly issue of Runner’s World or any of my countless running-related Google searches about how to improve my speed or perform better on race day.

In short, I started to think about how I’ve been making excuses and only doing things “halfway” for quite some time…and how running is only one example.

It sometimes takes months for me to send out a fresh batch of article pitches to my dream magazines. I’m constantly telling myself I’ll e-mail that editor “tomorrow,” or finish that story query “after I do more research.” But then I end up convincing myself that it’s a stupid idea, or the editor is “just going to ignore me, anyway,” so it never actually gets done. Meanwhile, I always make promises to myself about blogging more often, since it’s something I love to do…but take one look at my past posting history and you’ll see that I can’t seem to manage more than one post a month.

When it comes to Weight Watchers, my attempts to reach my goal of 100 pounds lost are quite laughable. I’m only casually counting POINTS, and I’m doing way more guesstimating than ever. I still measure out everyday staples like 3/4 cup of cereal, but then when it comes time to enjoy some frozen yogurt after dinner, I somehow seem to forget where the measuring cups are located, because “I worked out today, so I deserve a treat.” I’ve also been allowing myself a few-too-many binges on weekends, from extra glasses of wine to munching handfuls of Angie’s Kettle Corn on the beach. That excuse is an easy one: “It’s the weekend!”

For months, I have been putting in shorter and shorter workouts (when I’m not in kickboxing class, that is), justifying their brevity with classic excuses like “I don’t have time.”

But then I wonder why I’m never landing those writing assignments, why the scale won’t budge, and why my fitness level (or ability to run a 4-miler without wanting to die!) has completely plateaued.

So, I decided to do something to take down the Excuses Monster once and for all. I decided to start by choosing one goal — in this case, being a better runner — and not allowing any more excuses.

I’m proud to report that I have chosen quite a lofty goal, and for the past three weeks, have been diligently working towards making it a reality. With no excuses!

It started with stumbling upon some race recaps on running blogs about the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Feb. 2013, and knowing that it was something I absolutely, positively had to do. I have harbored a deep-seated Disney obsession since I was in diapers, and running through the Magic Kingdom would be a dream come true. I just have to do it.

That’s right. I am going to run a half marathon.

Before I convinced myself that “I’m not good enough, fast enough, experienced enough, etc. to run a half marathon,” I set out in search of a training plan and for the past three weeks have been running 5 times a week, with mileage ranging from 2 miles to 6 miles. I invested in a Dry-Erase board to chart my monthly training runs, and I became a member of the Daily Mile to track my progress on-line. I created a little inspiration corner in my office with photos, brochures of races I want to run, medals, and even a painting my sister made of me crossing the finish line, and I use them as a daily reminder of how much I want to reach this goal.

And it’s already paying off. I competed once again in the Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza, and the race that took me 33:03 last year only took 29:15. It wasn’t easy, and the course was incredibly hilly, but I didn’t once feel the need to stop. I felt comfortable and confident, because I knew, deep down, that I had put in the work…and wasn’t letting anything stand in my way.

There are no end to the excuses I could make to talk myself out of training for a 13 mile run — especially when the longest race I’ve ever participated in was a measly three miles. Aside from the physical agony and very real possibility of me not making it to the finish line, it’s out of state and extremely expensive…and basically another excuse for me to take a vacation.

But if I’m ever going to move forward, whether it’s in my writing career, weight loss, or fledgling attempts at running, I have got to stop talking myself out of everything…and cheating myself out of my own happiness.

Have you ever made up excuses or talked yourself out of doing something you really wanted to do?

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9 thoughts on “Stop Making Excuses…and Cheating Yourself Out of Success

  1. Kelly H

    YEAH!!!! I…. I don’t even know where to start!! You start off by saying you make all these excuses and are half-assing the things you really want to accomplish in your life. But girl, let me tell you right now…that you signing up for this half marathon is going to CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE. Seriously!! There is nothing like training to run a big race like this that you have never done before. All the running week after week, adding mileage on each time, will make you realize that YOU are capable of SO MUCH! You’re going to look at what you ran one day and be like “Did I seriously just run 7 miles and it was no problem??” Because yes, you will. And it will seep into other parts of your life (like WW and possibly your writing confidence) and make your realize that if you can now run 7 miles or 10 miles or THIRTEEN point ONE MILES there is nothing…I mean NOTHING you cannot do if you put your mind to to. You’re going to love it. And yes, you’re going to hate it and doubt whether you can really do it. But you’re signed up baby and the plane tickets are bought and the room reserved and you’ve told the whole world you’re running this half and you are going to have to drag yourself out of bed day after day and run those miles. There is no more motivation you’ll need than just signing up for it. I’m glad you have a training plan too. Now you don’t have to talk yourself out of runs and mileage. You have to do what the plan says each time. Simple as that. Oh Jennifer, this is all so exciting! I am about to run my second half marathon in a few weeks and I’m telling you, you will not regret this. So cool! GO JENNIFER!! Let us know how the training is going!

    • Thank you so, so much, Kelly! I really appreciate your support, as always!

      I am incredibly excited…and a little scared, not going to lie. But you’re right — I just felt like I needed to pick a goal, do something drastic (like, say, put a big dent in my credit card) to make sure I couldn’t talk myself out of it, and then just go ahead and DO it.

      Not only that, but it’s amazing how something as simple as a Dry-Erase board could be so motivating…there’s something about seeing those miles posted on the wall, and knowing exactly what my “schedule” is for the day, that makes me anxious to get out there and get it done! I’m so excited to cross those miles off the calendar!

      Plus, I am obsessed with all things Disney, and I’m already sitting here planning my costumes, my trip itinerary, which characters I’m going to take pictures with…haha.

      But honestly, running these hometown races and seeing no improvement one year later was really a wake-up call, and I figured I should ask myself if this was something I really wanted to do. Otherwise, why waste my time on all these 5K entry fees and running clothes and Garmin watches?

      Just like WW, just like writing…the drive is there, but something keeps stopping me. Fear, I’m guessing. So I felt I had to do something drastic. What could be more drastic than a 13.1 mile race? (Well, other than a 26.2 mile race…but I think we’ll call that a long-term goal…) ;-D

      It’s already getting easier. I have never in my life run 6 miles before, but I did it last Saturday morning, stopping only briefly a few times to walk…and I was truly amazed that I could physically DO that. It’s making me anxious for my next “long” run. You’re so right — it does make you feel that you can do just about anything!

      I will absolutely keep you posted — becoming a more consistent blogger is also on my list of no-more-excuses goals, and I’m very serious about it — and please let me know how your second half marathon goes!

      That is SO exciting. Oh, and just a heads up…I might be asking you for some training tips. You’re such an inspiration! πŸ˜€

      Thanks again!

      Jen

  2. Have I ever made excuses? OH HUN, you are in GOOD company! Almost three years ago, when I finished my last final as an undergraduate I marched mysel over to the mall and bought Nike running shoes, yoga pants and adorable tie-dyed socks since I was done with school and could “finally” work out. I think I used them THREE times and once was for a day at Disneyland!

    Flash forward to nearly three years later, I’m finally done with graduate school and instead of going out and promising myself I’d start working out, I actually did it. This time though, I had a friend who was in love with running and I caught the bug- then I also realized that runDisney is my biggest inspiration! I see all the gorgeous medals and suddenly I’m motivated!

    I’ve signed up for the Tinker Bell 1/2 and am on the fence but pretty much set on going to the Princess 1/2 as well a month later- I want that coast to coast medal!

    So what changed this time (and let me tell you, I’m not perfect, I mess up and flounder but now recognize that this goal of running at Disney is too big to fail) but I’ve put two things in place: a good friend that will stop and answer my running questions whenever I need it and had faith in me before I had it in myself (I laughed in his face when he told me I should run!) and a big goal that tickles my soul…so runDisney is my big shiny motivator.

    We should keep in touch on Twitter to motivate each other. Your weight loss results have already been phenomenal- it’s normal to hit a plateau. I’m so impressed and inspired by you. I know if you could power through it, I have no excuses not to keep going.

    High fives to you!

    • First, yes, let’s keep in touch on Twitter! This is all totally new to me — you know, that small task of training to run 13.1 miles! — and I would so appreciate the extra motivation and support! And to think of you possibly training for not one, but TWO half marathons…! You are AWESOME.

      I have so been there: “I’ll start my diet on Monday.” But then when you take that first step to actually DO the thing you want to do, there is nothing in the world more gratifying. That’s why I needed to sign up for this race. I’ve been wanting to improve my running for so long, and finally the incessant “I’m still too fat to be a runner” thoughts got to be too much. It’s rather exhausting to constantly think of all the ways you’re not good enough to do something.

      I need to prove to myself that I can do this, and there is nothing more motivating than a trip to my happy place; I’d do just about anything to go to WDW! I am beyond excited, and so happy to finally have a real, tangible goal…and, who knows, maybe I can even get my weight loss back on track. Anything is possible! πŸ˜€

  3. I can completely empathize! I have been the same way for two years. Doing ‘good enough’ but not my best. You are on the right track! Cant wait to see progress. Keep writing!

    • Hi, Rebecca! Thank you so much for reading, and please do feel free to subscribe, follow me, etc…would love to keep in touch!

      I know exactly what you mean — I know what I need to do to improve, but then something stops me. I didn’t realize how much setting a very specific goal could help, but it’s making all the difference!

      We can both do this! πŸ˜€

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